|Alchemy’s rendering of a future pumping station for its liquid metal-air fuel-cell system.|
Alchemy Enterprises, a new energy company, has been working with NASA/JPL on the development of a metal-air fuel-cell (MAFC) targeted at the heavy-duty transportation sector.
The company has now entered into an option agreement to acquire patent and license rights to the technology from California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech). (Cal Tech operates Jet Propulsion Laboratory(JPL)—a federally-funded R&D center sponsored by NASA.) Cal Tech will be issued 8% of Alchemy Common Stock, and will receive an annual fee. Alchemy will have exclusive worldwide rights to the current and all subsequent patent rights related to the metal-air fuel cell developed by NASA/JPL under the agreement.
What Alchemy calls its Electric Power Cell Technology was first developed for long-range solar-powered high-altitude unmanned aircraft applications. Alchemy contracted with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories to design and develop a prototype system specifically for initial implementation in public transport and commercial heavy-duty vehicles.
The initial working prototype is under development, and is being specifically tailored for implementation in vehicles manufactured by Designline Group in New Zealand. Designline is a leader in the production of electric drive systems for buses.
The company expects to be able to unveil a working prototype by December of 2006, and to begin early-stage implementation beginning in 2007. Once the initial bench model and bus system is completed, the company will begin marketing the system, geared toward the public transport sector.
Metal-air fuel cells (MAFC) generate electricity using metal and oxygen, rather than combing hydrogen and oxygen as in a PEM fuel cell. Compared to conventional batteries, MAFCs can have as much as 75 times greater energy density.
The Alchemy Electric Power Cell Technology works by pumping an electrolytic liquid consisting of common base earth metal and salt water into the power cell. Catalyzed by air, it generates electricity used to power an engine or other propulsion device.
When the electrolytic liquid is spent, it is pumped out of the power cell into a storage tank. In the storage tank, the liquid is recharged, ready to be pumped back into another electric power cell for re-use.
Alchemy claims that its MAFC is capable of powering a vehicle up to 500 miles before re-fueling, with performance beating that of a conventional gasoline-powered vehicle. The cost of producing the material for the power cell is lower than the cost of gasoline fuel, and the overall cost can be amortized to even lower cost because the material is able to be re-used.
Alchemy claims that the cell has a shelf-life of approximately ten years.
In 2003, eVionyx in conjunction with InventQjaya fielded a Honda Insight modified to be powered by a hybrid powertrain using Nickel-Zinc batteries and Metal-Air fuel cells. The car travelled 516 km (320 miles).